Preface to the New Edition
[In issuing this new edition of Hind Swaraj it may not be inappropriate to
publish the following that I wrote in the Harijan in connection of the Hind
Swaraj Special Number of the Aryan Path. Though Gandhiji's views as expressed in
the first edition of Hind Swaraj have remained in substance unchanged,- they
have gone through a necessary evolution. My article copied below throws some
light on this evolution. The proof copy of this edition has been revised by
numerous friends to whom I am deeply indebted.
An Important Publication
its conception and beautifully successful1 in its execution is the
Special Hind Swaraj Number of the Aryan Path. It owes its appearance mainly to
the devoted labours of that gifted sister Shrimati Sophia Wadia who sent copies
of Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) to numerous friends abroad and invited the
most prominent of them to express their views on the book. She had herself
devoted special articles to the book and seen in it the hope for future India,
but she wanted the European thinkers and writers to say that it had in it the
potency to help even Europe out of its chaos, and therefore she thought of this
plan. The result is remarkable. The special number contains articles by
Professor Soddy, G. D. H. Cole, C. Delisle Burns, John Middleton Murry, J. D.
Beresford, Hugh Fausset, Claude Houghton, Gerald Heard and Irene Rathbone. Some
of these are of course well-known pacifists and socialists. One wonders what the
number would have been like, if it had included in it articles by non-pacifist
and non- socialist writers! The articles are so arranged "that adverse
criticisms and objections raised in earlier articles are mostly answered in
subsequent ones". But there are one or two criticisms which have been made
practically by all the writers, and it would be worth while considering them
here. There are certain things which it would be well to recognize at once. Thus
Professor Soddy remarks that, having just returned from a visit to India, he saw
little outwardly to suggest that the doctrine inculcated in the book had
attained any considerable measure of success. That is quite true. Equally true
is Mr G. D. H. Cole's remark that though Gandhiji is "as near as a man can be to
Swaraj in a purely personal sense", "he has never solved, to his own
satisfaction, the other problem—that of finding terms of collaboration that
could span the gulf between man and man, between acting alone and helping others
to act in accordance with their lights, which involves acting with them and as
one of them—being at once one's self and someone else, someone one's self can
and must regard and criticize and attempt to value." Also as John Middleton
Murry says, "the efficacy of non-violence is quickly exhausted when used as a
mere technique of political pressure",—when the question arises, 'Is
nonviolence fante de mieux, really non-violence at all?'
But the whole process is one of endless evolution. In working for the end, man also
works for perfecting the means. The principle of non-violence and love was
enunciated by Buddha and Christ centuries ago. It has been applied through these
centuries by individual people with success on small clear-cut issues. As it has
been recognized, and as Gerald Heard has pointed out, "the world-wide and
age-long interest of Mr. Gandhi's experiment lies in the fact that he has
attempted to make the method work in what may be called the wholesale or
national scale." The difficulties of that application are obvious, but Gandhiji
trusts that they are not insurmountable. The experiment seemed impossible in
India in 1921 and had to be abandoned, but what was then impossible became
possible in 1930. Even now the question often arises: 'What is a nonviolent
means ?' It will take long practice to standardize the meaning and content of
this term. But the means thereof is self-purification and more
self-purification. What Western thinkers often lose sight of is that the
fundamental condition of non-violence is love, and pure unselfish love is
impossible without unsullied purity of mind and body.
The Attack on Machinery and Civilization
What is a common feature of all the other appreciative reviews of the book is in the
reviewers' opinion Gandhiji's unwarranted condemnation of machinery. "He
forgets, in the urgency of his vision," says Middleton Murry, "that the very
spinning wheel he loves is also a machine, and also unnatural. On his principles
it should be abolished." "This," says Prof. Delisle Burns, "is a fundamental
philosophical error. It implies that we are to regard as morally evil any
instrument which may be misused. But even the spinning wheel is a machine; and
spectacles on the nose are mere mechanisms for 'bodily' eyesight. The plough is
a machine; and the very earliest mechanisms for drawing water are themselves
only the later survivals of perhaps ten thousand years of human effort to
improve the lives of men.... Any mechanism may be misused; but if it is, the
moral evil is in the man who misuses it, not in the mechanism." I must confess
that in "the urgency of his vision" Gandhiji has used rather crude language
about machinery, which if he were revising the book he would himself alter. For
I am sure Gandhiji would accept all the statements I have quoted here, and he
has never attributed to mechanisms moral qualities which belong to the men who
use them. Thus in 1924 he used language which is reminiscent of the two writers
I have just quoted. I shall reproduce a dialogue that took place in Delhi.
Replying to a question whether he was against all machinery, Gandhiji said:
I be when I know that even this body is a most delicate piece of machinery ? The
spinning wheel is a machine; a little toothpick is a machine. What I object to
is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they
call labour-saving machinery. Men go on 'saving labour' till thousands are
without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. I want to save
time and labour, not for a fraction of mankind but for all. I want the
concentration of wealth, not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of all.
Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus
behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed. It is against
this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might.... The supreme
consideration is man. The machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of, man.
For instance, I would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of the Singer's
Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there is a
romance about the device itself."
asked the questioner, "there would have to be a factory for making these sewing
machines, and it would have to contain power-driven machinery of ordinary type."
said Gandhiji, in reply. "But I am socialist enough to say that such factories
should be nationalized, State-controlled.... The saving of the labour of the
individual should be the object, and not human greed the motive. Thus, for
instance, I would welcome any day a machine to straighten crooked spindles. Not
that blacksmiths will cease to make spindles; they will continue to provide
spindles but when the spindle goes wrong every spinner will have a machine to
get it straight. Therefore replace greed by love and everything will be all
said the questioner, "if you make an exception of the Singer's Sewing Machine
and your spindle, where would these exceptions end?"
where they cease to help the individual and encroach upon his individuality. The
machine should not be allowed to cripple the limbs of man."
ideally, would you not rule out all machinery? When you except the sewing
machine, you will have to make exceptions of the bicycle, the motor car, etc."
don't," he said, "because they do not satisfy any of the primary wants of man;
for it is not the primary need of man to traverse distances with the rapidity of
a motor car. The needle on the contrary happens to be an essential thing in
life, a primary need."
added: "Ideally, I would rule out all machinery, even as I would reject this
very body, which is not helpful to salvation, and seek the absolute liberation
of the soul. From that point of view I would reject all machinery, but machines
will remain because, like the body, they are inevitable. The body itself, as I
told you, is the purest piece of mechanism; but if it is a hindrance to the
highest flights of the soul, it has to be rejected."
I do not
think any of the critics would be in fundamental disagreement with this
position. The machine is, like the body, useful if and only to the extent that
it subserves the growth of the soul.
about Western civilization Mr. G.D.H. Cole counters the proposition that
"Western civilization is of sharp necessity at enmity with the human soul": "I
say that the horrors of Spain and Abyssinia, the perpetual fear that hangs over
us, the destitution in the midst of potential plenty, are defects, grave
defects, of our Western civilization but are not of its very essence.... I do
not say that we shall mend this civilization of ours; but I do not believe it to
be past mending. I do not believe that it rests upon a sheer denial of what is
necessary to the human soul." Quite so, and the defects Gandhiji pointed out
were not inherent defects, but the defects of its tendencies, and Gandhiji's
object in the book was to contrast the tendencies of the Indian civilization
with those of the Western. Gandhiji would wholly agree with G. D. H. Cole that
Western civilization is not past mending, also that the West will need a "Home
Rule" after the fashion of the West, and also conceived by "leaders who are
masters of themselves, as Gandhi is, but masters after our Western fashion,
which is not his, or India's."
Limitations of the Doctrine
G. D. H.
Cole has put the following poser: "Is it so when German and Italian airmen are
massacring the Spanish people, when Japanese airmen are slaughtering thousands
upon thousands in Chinese cities, when German armies have marched into Austria
and are threatening to march into Czechoslovakia, when Abyssinia has been
bloodily bombed into defeat ? Until two years or so ago, I believed myself
opposed to war and death-dealing violence under all circumstances. But today,
hating war, I would risk war to stop these horrors." How acute is the struggle
within himself is apparent from the sentences that follow: "I would risk war;
and yet, even now, that second self of mine shrinks back appalled at the thought
of killing a man. Personally, I would much sooner die than kill. But may it not
be my duty to try to kill rather than to die?
Gandhi might answer that no such dilemma could confront a man who had achieved his
personal Swaraj. I do not claim to have achieved mine; but I am unconvinced that
the dilemma would confront me, here and now in Western Europe, less disturbingly
if I had."
Occasions like those Mr. Cole has mentioned test one's faith, but the answer has been
given by Gandhiji more than once, though he has not completely achieved his
Swaraj, for the simple reason that for him Swaraj is incomplete so long as his
fellow-beings are bereft of it. But he lives in faith, and the faith in
non-violence does not begin to shake at the mention of Italian or Japanese
barbarities. For violence breeds the results of violence, and once you start the
game there is no limit to be drawn. Philip Mumford in the War Resister has
replied as follows to a Chinese friend urging action on behalf of China:
"Your enemy is the Japanese Government and not the Japanese peasants and soldiers—.
unfortunate and uneducated people who do not even know why they are being asked
to fight. Yet, if you use ordinary military methods of defending your country,
it is these guiltless people who are not your real enemies whom you must kill.
If only China would try and preserve herself by the nonviolent tactics used by
Gandhiji in India, tactics which are indeed far more in accordance with the
teachings of her great religious leaders, she would, I venture to say, be far
more successful than she will by copying the militarist methods of Europe....
Surely it is a lesson to mankind in general that the Chinese, the most pacific
people on earth, have preserved themselves and their civilization for a longer
period in history than any of the warlike races. Please do not think we do not
honour those gallant Chinese who are fighting in defence of their country. We
honour their sacrifice and recognize that they hold different principles from
ourselves. None the less, we believe that killing is evil in all circumstances
and out of it good cannot come. Pacifism will not spare you from all suffering,
but in the long run, it is, I believe, a more effective weapon against the
would-be conqueror than all your fighting forces; and what is most important, it
will keep alive the ideals of your race."
Miss Irene Rathbone poses a similar question: "What human being on this earth, normal
or saintlike, can endure that small boys and girls should perish if, by bowing
to the tyrant and denying his own conscience, he can save them? That question
Gandhi does not answer. He does not even pose it.... Christ is clearer.... Here
are his words: 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe
in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he
were drowned in the depth of the sea'.... Christ is a greater help to us than
Gandhi...." I do not think Christ's words express anything more than his wrath,
and the action suggested is not by way of punishment to be imposed by another on
the offender, but one to be imposed on himself by himself. And is Miss Rathbone
sure that she can, by using what she supposes to be Christ's method, save the
child? She is wrong in thinking that Gandhiji has not posed the question. He has
posed it and answered it emphatically, as it was posed and answered in action by
those immortal Muslim martyrs 1300 years ago who suffered women and children to
die of hunger and thirst rather than bow to the tyrant and deny their own
conscience. For, in bowing to the tyrant and denying your own conscience, you
encourage the tyrant to, perpetrate further horrors.
But even Miss Irene Rathbone calls Hind Swaraj "an enormously powerful book", and says
that by virtue of it she has found "myself forced by its tremendous honesty to
search my own honesty. I would implore people to read it."
The Editors of the Aryan Path have done a distinct service to the cause of peace and
non-violence by issuing their Hind Swaraj Special Number.